Viking Night: Attack of the 50 Foot Woman
By Bruce Hall
February 7, 2018
Years ago when I started writing this column, I remember mentioning to a friend how I was going to be writing about “cult” films. His response was - no lie - to specifically ask me whether this meant I’d be writing about things like “Attack of the 50 Foot Woman”. I said that no - I am a writer, sir, and while I may someday write about Krull, or Ladyhawke, or Night of the Comet, I most certainly draw the line there!
To hell with spending my life reviewing dreck where a woman in a thirty pound dress clutches her pearls and shrieks like an impotent banshee as an overweight Teamster in a rubber suit slowly advances on her from out of frame. Once, I actually started a column about The Blob, and found myself unable to finish. Most B-grade horror flicks from that era clock in at barely an hour, and depend on your being a misogynist creep with the IQ of shoe leather before you can truly enjoy it.
And yet over the years, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman has called to me. I’ve become obsessed with it, even as I have actively avoided it. Then I realized - perhaps I was merely afraid. Maybe I didn’t think I could come up with enough to say about a movie with homemade special effects, a
script that could fit on a cocktail napkin and a runtime barely as long as an episode of Iron Fist.
And then something dawned on me. There’s no excuse NOT to write about a movie like that!
My God, I’ve already burned three hundred words complaining about it; why not go for broke, rip the band-aid off and seal the deal?
So yes, Attack of the 50 Foot Woman is barely one hour long. The opening credits take up nearly two percent of that. The rest involves a curiously self-aware television reporter barely able to conceal his amusement as he tracks the path of a mysterious comet across the Eastern hemisphere and into California. He’s even careful to specifically point out, as he glibly recites the list of worldwide sightings, that the report from Africa was made by a white person.
Ha! Take that, regular Africans!
Off to a good start. Next, a woman in a thirty pound dress has her car forced off the road by a giant snot bubble (ostensibly an alien spacecraft). She stands there shrieking like an impotent banshee as an overweight Teamster in a rubber suit slowly advances on her from out of frame.
Nancy (Allison Hayes) is her name, a wealthy heiress who’s just left her dirtbag husband Harry (William Hudson) behind at a nearby bar. He’s busy sucking face with the town hussy, whose name is Honey (Yvette Vickers), in case your slut detector is broken. Harry mentions how badly he’d like to get a divorce, but the damn government requires you have a reason! Why, even after he drives his poor wife to alcoholism, a guy can’t just walk away with all that sweet, consequence free money. What an unjust world!
Indeed, Nancy has managed to sober up (by 50s standards) and inexplicably wants to salvage the marriage. This has has put a crimp in Harry’s nightlife, which - by the way - seems to involve the entire town. There doesn’t seem to be anyone within miles who isn’t aware of the degree to which Nancy has suffered at the hands of her abusive, gold-digging husband. Even the police are complicit - the Sheriff and his entertaining deputy can barely condescend to take Nancy back to her car and listen to her story.
Even the snarky news anchor shows up later in the film to directly taunt her over the air.
Nancy hasn’t a friend in the world except her faithful butler Jess (Ken Terrell), who does his best to defend her. Everyone else seems strangely unconcerned that Harry is a two-timing, money grubbing dirtbag and that Nancy’s excessive drinking and frayed emotional state is a direct result. Basically, Nancy’s life is like that dream we all have several times a week where we’re forced to read a list of our own faults in front of everyone who’s ever hated us - while not wearing pants.
Right? It’s not just me, is it?
By the way, have you noticed how so far I have made no mention of attacks from giant women of any particular size? It occurred to me by the halfway point that this is not a movie about a Fifty Foot Woman attacking things. This is a movie about the events leading up to a Fifty Foot Woman attacking things.
Until about the midpoint (or one half-Buffy) of the film, this is just a pointless documentary about a ditzy socialite struggling with post traumatic stress, a philandering husband, and their life together in a town full of self indulgent assholes. Nancy’s encounter with the alien seems entirely incidental. In fact, at no time does Attack of the 50 Foot Woman offer a satisfactory explanation for anything that happens at any time in the story.
Someone just said “Hey, wouldn’t it be cool to see a giant girl in her underwear?” and that was the end of it. Someone dug through the trash, found a script for a rejected marital abuse thriller, trimmed the second act, set it in a small town to save money, threw in an alien, and gave it the green light.
I know, it’s easy to take cheap shots. But what else can I do? It’s not even a complete story by genre movie standards, having been written at a time when I guess that really wasn’t necessary. It was the Atomic Age, so at some point someone wearing a nice suit and glasses strokes his chin and says something about “radiation”, and that makes it okay not to wonder why the only inhabitants of this town are thirty drunken yokels and one woman worth $50 million.
But that’s not the biggest crime on display here. It’s abundantly clear there was no way available to realistically make Nancy appear 50 feet tall, so the effect is kept under wraps until nearly the end of the film. That’s okay if you’re Gareth Edwards and the payoff is Godzilla curb stomping a giant space-crab. It’s not okay if the result looks like part Bigfoot video, part something your kids made out of papier mache.
Especially if it requires you to cut corners to the point where you are shooting day-for-night scenes without a filter and without consideration for the position of the sun. Which in turn forces people to prattle on about how late it is while clearly squinting directly into the fireball at the center of our solar system. This movie makes it hilariously difficult, from scene to scene, to be certain whether the sun is actually supposed to be there or not.
Also left to the imagination is how characters occasionally manage to change clothes while still carrying things from the last scene, making it hard to be sure what’s just happened. Is it the next day? Do these people live in a snow globe at the center of a black hole?
So after forty five minutes of this, and being forced to hear a Fifty Foot Woman described only through expository dialog, the big reveal is as big a letdown as everything leading up to it. But hey, at least I got to make fun of something for an hour and it didn’t cost me a dime.
Well, how do you like that. It turns out you can still enjoy cheesy b-movies ironically!